Wednesday, March 29, 2023
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NBA Preview: Philadelphia Sixers (35-19) at Brooklyn Nets (33-22)

During the past week, things were so eventful for the Brooklyn Nets that they went from Kyrie Irving being the top scoring option until Kevin Durant returns from an injury to having an entirely different roster.

The first game with the overhauled squad went well, and new acquisitions Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson could make their debuts Saturday night when the Nets host the Philadelphia 76ers.

Bridges and Johnson are listed as questionable as the Nets prepare to face the 76ers one year and one day after granting James Harden’s trade request and dealing him to Philadelphia for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond.

Irving demanded a trade last week and the Nets granted his wish on Monday, dealing him and Markieff Morris to the Dallas Mavericks for guard Spencer Dinwiddie, defensive-minded forward Dorian Finney-Smith and multiple draft picks.

At the time of Irving’s request, it was unknown how Durant felt, but by Thursday, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in a four-team deal that landed Bridges, Johnson and multiple draft picks, including four first-rounders.

Bridges, who was on the NBA’s all-defensive first team last year, joins the Nets after averaging a career-high 17.2 points a game. He is shooting 46.3 percent after shooting at least 50 percent in the previous three seasons.

Bridges averaged 24.5 points in his final six games for Phoenix, including a 21-point showing Tuesday in Brooklyn.

Johnson averaged a career-best 13.9 points, but a knee injury limited him to 17 games. Since returning Jan. 19, he put up 14.7 points per game and contributed 14 points on Tuesday against the Nets.

Bridges and Johnson enjoyed their first appearance as Nets from courtside seats and watched their new teammates hold the Chicago Bulls to 21 points in the fourth quarter as Brooklyn won 116-105 on Thursday. Dinwiddie scored 13 of his 25 in the fourth while Cam Thomas added 20 after scoring at least 40 in each of his previous three games.

Philadelphia owns a pair of home wins over the Nets this season, and its 137-133 victory against the Nets on Jan. 25 is part of its stretch of 23 wins in 30 games. The Sixers shot 51.2 percent in the latest meeting and survived allowing 64.5 percent shooting to the Nets by hitting 18 3-pointers and making 35 of 36 free throws.

Sixers star Joel Embiid scored 26 points in that contest after sitting out the teams’ Nov. 22 encounter. He scored 13 of his 35 in the third quarter on Friday as Philadelphia posted a 119-108 home win over the New York Knicks.

Embiid is averaging 33.1 points in seven games since the last meeting with Brooklyn.

Philadelphia hopes to replicate its defensive showing from Friday, when it allowed just 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Harden added 20 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for Philadelphia on Friday in the warmup for his latest matchup against his ex-team. He averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and six assists in the two prior meetings with Brooklyn this season.

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